The feeling of relief when a baby vacates the inside of your body is a release like no other. I hope I never forget that feeling.
It only took a couple contractions of pushing…child bearing hips come in handy in the delivery room 😉
I remember reaching out for his slimy, warm body and pulling him right into me. The intensity of hours of labor + pushing had given way to this tiny (ginormous) miracle.
I pulled my robe down so we could do skin to skin, and his hands cupped my warm chest. His face was squished up and a little swollen from delivery.
When I looked down to my left, my eyes locked onto his tiny right hand. I was trembling as I always do post birth, and I felt slightly delirious from the work I had accomplished — but there was a disconnect in my brain. I looked and looked and it appeared as though he only had two fingers in the shape of a U on his tiny hand.
I was taken aback and confused. I loved Jack so ferociously already as I nuzzled him closer, but like a hospital alarm beeping when something isn’t quite right, my brain was sounding an alarm. Is he okay?? Did I do something wrong?!? Life felt slow motion in the following moments.
I stared at his open left eye and his closed right eye and immediately feared that he was missing other things too. Why was he only opening one little eye?
“Jack, buddy, it’s mommy! Open your eyes– look at mommy.” I said as I stroked my left hand over his carefully formed right palm, and the soft dip between his pinky and thumb.
I moved Jack into a cradled position, “Why won’t he open his eye?” I asked Kevin and the nurses…anyone who was listening. Maybe they were wondering the same thing, because I don’t remember getting an answer.
Finally, relief as if he had taken his first breath came over me like a wave as he opened his other dark blue eye and looked right up into mine. My boy.
My third baby boy, earth-side– who knew me and my body so well, and mine knew his. It had grown from a single cell, into millions, billions probably.
I was confident even in my confusion and questions that our God doesn’t make mistakes when he forms human beings and souls in the secret place. I hugged Jack tight and offered my love, wholly and without restraint.
What felt so strange to me was the way no one -at least in my memory – said one thing about his hand. I don’t remember him crying much, maybe a little as he worked to find his way onto his first latch.
I remember locking into the reassuring gaze of Kevin to my left, smiling and laughing as relief and joy flooded the room. And also exchanging some words — it’s a blur. Things like “he is perfect,” and “What happened to his hand?” “It’s okay, he’s going to be okay.”
We shared the same feelings and questions without words, too, as we drank in the “thin space” that a birth chamber is.
The nearness and tenderness of the Spirit of God feels as tangible as I’ve ever felt in those minutes. I remember less pain in the mending process, as I preoccupied myself with memorizing every curve and miniature feature of this boy.
My body easily delivered the placenta and Jack scored a 9 on the APGAR test, the nurse said. His color wasn’t perfect and he gagged and spit up amniotic fluid and pheglem a few times in those first hours because he hadn’t spent long in the birth canal. Lots of meconium poops too, right away. It’s so raw and primal, this whole process you guys. Messy and perfect and the opposite of airbrushed.
The miracle of life stirred my soul to worship the creator.
He was born at 7:29 pm and was our heaviest little munchkin by over a pound, weighing in at 8lbs, 1oz.
I had hoped at one point for a sister for Annabelle, but when I looked at Jack, I knew he was meant to be ours.
The Twilight series (I know, bear with me) describes something the werewolves do as “Imprinting.” It’s something they can’t control, and it happens when they find their soul mate, essentially. What I’m getting at is…there was a shift on a soul-level. Don’t be weird about it…lol..I know Jack isn’t my soul mate. kevin is 😉 But when I locked eyes with him, we had a special connection and I knew that I knew that I knew that everything was going to be okay, whatever that meant.
I told Kevin that I didn’t want to Google what might have happened with his hand that night. I just wanted to enjoy our baby, and not have the heaviness of news that I had something to do with his birth defect.
I was so scared that the trace amounts of red wine I had chosen to sip on rare occasion in Jack’s pregnancy had caused this abnormality. Or maybe it was the days I had missed taking my vitamins. Maybe I hadn’t let my vitamin levels build up enough before getting pregnant. There were simultaneously so many “what-if’s” and yet also feeling at a loss for words.
Jack’s and my vitals were tracked every 2-4 hours. We were doing great, which was a relief. I was exhausted but so grateful to have him here with us, after all we had been through.
Nurses were in and out, and the only and first person to mention his hand aside from me and Kev was a phlebotomist who came in to take blood from Jack’s heel in the middle of the night.
I remember the room was dark, and she made light conversation. She was sweet and young, and when she noticed his hand, she said, “My cousin has a hand just like that. She writes with it and everything. She has beautiful handwriting.” It was very matter-of-fact and sweet, like we were talking bout the color of his hair. It was so kind. SO kind you guys. It brings me to tears just thinking of it. (Thank you, wherever you are!!)
I was nervous what others would think and say. Even before having him, we had planned to wait a couple days to announce his birth so we could enjoy the peace and quiet sanctuary of the hospital with our baby (social media can be AHHHH sometimes…also the hospital is a legitimate retreat center when you have other kids!!).
I knew we had agreed not to google his hand, but in the middle of the night as I held the bundle of blankets with part of my heart inside, I had to know.
I thought hard. What should I type? I stared at the empty search box. “My baby only has a pinky and thumb.”
Rusty trusty Google didn’t miss a beat:
“Symbrachydactyly” (okay that’s a freaking awesome dinosaur name for whatever it was. Cal would love it)
I went on to read:
“When a baby’s hands begin to form in the womb, they are shaped like mittens or paddles. Then the fingers divide. In babies with symbrachydactyly, the fingers (and sometimes the hand and arm) don’t fully form during this time. This may happen because the area doesn’t get enough blood flow or because of some other problem with the tissue. It’s not caused by anything the mother did or did not do while she was pregnant.
Most children with this condition can use their hands well enough to do all the usual things children do. Even if their smaller hand doesn’t work well on its own, they can use it to assist their other hand.
Symbrachydactyly isn’t common. It happens in about 1 in 32,000 babies. It’s not passed down in families (inherited). If you have a child with symbrachydactyly, you are not at any greater risk of having another child with the condition.”
Did you read that? “It’s not caused by ANYTHING the mother did or did not do while she was pregnant.”
We also found an incredible organization called the “Lucky Fin Project.” (you know, like Nemo and his lucky fin?) Their tagline is: “Ten fingers are overrated.” Comfort. Joy. Community. I felt so incredibly not al0ne.
I don’t remember even shedding one tear about his hand in the hospital.
I did a couple times in the first couple months of his life, I think. Not a lot, but once when I was alone and processing the child who physically recoiled at first glance. And once out of frustration at myself for thinking about it or mentioning it more often than I wish I would have. Maybe when we talked about mean kids who might hurt him down the road. (but let’s be honest…kids can be mean no matter what you look like or don’t!)
But honestly, Jack is the most endearing little human. I know all babies are cute, but Jack has this quality that just wins people over instantly. His smile is HUGE. His perfectly round face. His soft squishy body that is somehow also ridiculously athletic and coordinated. His hand is freaking precious and feels so good between my fingers. It’s normal to us, now. I forget about it all the time…and he does too. He eats, claps, and waves with it like the champion that he is.
I didn’t know what all the future held (so many joys!!!!) but I knew our Jack Judah was here and he was perfect.
Psalm 139: 13-14
“For you created my inmost being;
you knit me together in my mother’s womb.
I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
your works are wonderful,
I know that full well.”
PS. It’s pretty amazing that the pinky/thumb up happens to be called a “Shaka.” It’s a South African/Hawaiin/surfing sign people make at each other and it symbolizes “a reverence, solidarity, compassion and friendship.”
So naturally, we had to take our little surfer dude to Hawaii. That’s another blog for another day. Yay for quarantine blogging (and late 10th anniversary trips! And grandmas who babysit 😉 And raising miracle babies!!
But for now, a few pics!! <3